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In the Spotlight: “The OR is my happy place”

In the Spotlight: “The OR is my happy place”

Miquell Miller‘s journey from the Bahamas, where she was born, to Stanford included a stop in New Orleans. There, as an undergraduate at Dillard University, Miller, MD, who is now a resident in surgery, had the opportunity to come to Stanford for the summer through the SSRP-Amgen Scholars Program, which exposes underrepresented college students interested in STEM careers to life in a research lab.

I caught up with her recently to learn more.

What did you think when you first came to Stanford?

I loved it here – this place was amazing, there are so many opportunities here and so many amazing people that  I never left. I went to medical school and now I am in the general surgery residency program and also pursuing a master’s in health policy. To think — it all started 12 years ago when I was an eager summer program student who was given the opportunity to pursue my dreams.

Why did you decide to go into medicine?

Several personal experiences sparked my interest in medicine. My mother is a cancer survivor and I always tagged along to the doctor’s office with her, this exposed me to the medical field at a young age. I wanted to be like the doctors who saved my mom’s life. I also had many people that supported and believed in me along the way.

Why surgery?

Once I was introduced to the field, I knew it was for me. I have a surgery personality — if there is a problem I like to fix it — and I just felt at home when it came to being around surgeons. The OR is my happy place — it really calms me and I enjoy operating.

What are you working on today?

I’m in a seven-year program for a general surgery residency. I’m using two years for research to earn a master’s degree in health policy. My project is on the cultural competency of providers caring for colorectal cancer patients. I’m also looking at disparities in the coordination of care for minority cancer patients and working to figure out how to improve care for those patients.

What is the biggest challenge in your field now?

There are many challenges in my field, what I’m trying to do is set a standard of equality in health care. Some people receive really good care and some people receive really poor care.

What is one thing you did the hard way?

I think I would have invested more in mentorship when I was in medical school, I didn’t realize how important it is. I feel like I got caught up in the academic rigor of being a student, but in terms of my career, I did not network enough.

I also didn’t understand the difference between mentorship and sponsorship. A sponsor is more active, directly connecting you with people, or offering grants or speaking opportunities. Now, I have really great mentorship and sponsorship.

How do you organize your time?

At the beginning of the week I set a list of things I want to accomplish for the week and I enjoy ticking items off that list.

How do you unwind?

I go to Zumba. I also walk the Dish, it’s so beautiful and I love the view of the bay — water really calms me. I also go to Santa Cruz and watch the waves.

What is your favorite food?

I love conch. It’s a specialty in the Bahamas. My mom brings it when she visits.

What are you reading now?

The Tennis Partner by Abraham Verghese, MD. For those who don’t know, it addresses addiction, which is a big problem in medicine.

What is your ultimate career goal?

I definitely see myself in an academic setting. I love research and there is a lot of room for research on minorities — I feel like I am needle in a haystack in this area. My ultimate goal is to improve equality in medicine for surgery patients.

Photo by Becky Bach

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